I'm familiar with Karaism, and as I understand it, Karaites are not considered "Jews" by Rabbinic Jews, at least not in the traditional sense. What is the perspective of the Rabbinic Jewish community from the Karaite perspective? Is there an attitude of "agree to disagree," or "you're wrong," or just a full-on feeling of "you're all gonna burn"?

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    They are Jews just not observant. Who says they're not Jews?
    – robev
    Feb 13, 2020 at 16:09
  • @robev If you look, for example, at the Samaritan community ("Shomronim"), Chazal felt it was necessary to explicitly give details about how to respond to them and relate to them (see, for example, Perek Benos Kusim in Maseches Niddah, or for that matter, the entirety of Maseches Kusim). Do the same apply to Karaites? If a modern Karaite wanted to take on Rabbinic Judaism, would they simply be viewed as a baal teshuvah, or would they need to be megayer? The question is predicated on the fact that they have not upheld Rabbinic Judaism for centuries. Similar to the Falasha who had to convert.
    – Yehuda
    Feb 13, 2020 at 16:18
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    @robev there's a big halachic problem with marrying Karaites because they didn't keep halachic marital and divorce standards of kiddushin and gittin for centuries. Halachically, some of them may even be considered mamzerim. So it's not as simple as saying "just not observant".
    – Harel13
    Feb 13, 2020 at 16:35
  • If they are born to a Jewish mother, they are Jews. No matter what your Rav told you. If they are born to a gentile mother and e.g a Jewish father, I agree with your Rav. In that case they might have a Jewish brain but not a Jewish soul.
    – Ilja
    Feb 13, 2020 at 16:44
  • @Ilja Yes, but--who says their mother is Jewish?
    – Yehuda
    Feb 13, 2020 at 19:30

1 Answer 1


Having grown up in Egypt till I was forced out at age 18, I can offer a personal perspective. There was a large Karaite community there, with its own parallel institutions and synagogues. They were harassed, expropriated, jailed and expelled by the regime, same as the rest of us Jews. Their feelings for Israel were as strong as ours. They went to the same (secular) schools and many of them were my friends.

But there was one cardinal rule: No intermarriage with them was permitted. This changed only in 1971, when Rav Ovadia Yosef, then Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel (and who had been Vice-Chief-Rabbi of Egypt in the late 40s) recognized them as Jews and added that Rabbinic Jews may intermarry with them.

  • Really fascinating. Do you know what was the basis for Rabbi Ovadia's ruling? What about their marital traditions?
    – Harel13
    Feb 13, 2020 at 19:28
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    I will add that I too am Egyptian and have met a few Egytpian Karaites at random synagogues (one regularly attended a Chabad as the only synagogue in walking distance to where he lived). Obviously we don't do things the way they do, but they see themselves as part of the Jewish people. The Chabad Rabbi saw it differently, and wouldn't allow the Karaite person to do things like a Torah reading even though I am doubtless that the Karaite could do a better job of it than the Chabad Rabbi. While Ovadia Yosef has ruled that these Egyptian Karaites are Jews, the Ashkenazi community rejects this.
    – Aaron
    Feb 13, 2020 at 19:30
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    @Harel13 -- Personal experience with their history and practices, I suppose. While this discussion is interesting for historical reasons, remember that there are only 50,000 Karaite Jews today, of which 40,000 are in Israel. So, while (according to Jewish historian Salo Wittmayer Baron) they were 40% of the Jewish people in their heydey, in the years 900-1100, they are very much a minority today. Feb 13, 2020 at 19:59
  • @MauriceMizrahi very interesting. 50,000 still isn't anything to sneeze at.
    – Harel13
    Feb 13, 2020 at 20:04

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